Trivia on off-season travelling (or how we met Winter in plain Autumn)

Every winter sports enthusiast knows the feeling: the days get shorter, the nights start to get colder and we start looking into weather forecast for the nearest mountains. Yep, winter is coming. But in full climate change process (no, it’s not a hoax by the Chinese) booking a 5-day trip to snowboard in November is a shot in the dark. When we did, we aimed high enough to be safe and so that we’d have at least something to slide on. So choosing the Stubai glacier was not at all a random choice – and did I mention it hosts the Stubai Zoo, one of the best and most hyped snowparks in the Alps?

img-20161112-wa0015(click by Vasco Abreu)

Book flights, make contacts, let’s go. As usual, weather forecasts in Autumn are not really trustworthy, especially when talking about a glacier. But we did know that there would be snow – just weren’t sure how much of it, and when. There was a huge chance that we’d catch bad weather. Hell yeah, we did! We got more than we bargained for, with 2 days of closed skies and temperatures as low as -15ºC up in the peaks. And snowfall, lots of it.

(clicks by Brian Fernandes and Vasco Abreu)

The glacier resort itself had 25km of marked slopes open, which was not bad at all for this time of the year. And with the recent snowfall and low temperatures it really felt like winter. Visibility was crap though, and the wind was strong in the high alpine. Due to that the park was mostly closed in the first days. But the open pistes were more than enough to keep our rusty legs entertained. Even more so were the side-country slopes that looked really good for some off piste riding. Wrong choice! Peer pressure and the craving for powder after a long summer can truly hinder your choices: think thrice before you venture off piste! Nothing really bad happened except for some board carnage and ego damage. But things can go severely sour when these factors come together: early season, glacier, short base layer and sharks. When in doubt, there’s no doubt, don’t go out. Even if the clouds go away and the mountains look as awesome as this.

20161112_122021(click by João Saraiva)

Well they eventually did go away and the sun came out on a beautiful Saturday. And so did the crowds. Geeeez, hundreds, thousands of tourists, locals and pros just stormed in and made it feel like Sierra Nevada after a dump on a weekend. The park quickly became filled with high-level riders, and the one lift that was open (come on, one draglift for the whole park? You gotta be kidding!) queued like there was no tomorrow. Back to the pistes it was, but we managed to steal some quick shots just to say we were there.

So was it worth it? Definitely! Would we go back and do the same? Yep, but my advice is choose your dates wisely to avoid major weekends. Better yet, keep your options open to visit other glaciers nearby: Hintertux is 1.30h drive from Neustift where we were based, and Kaunertal and Pitztal are 2h away for example. They all have amazing snowparks, are open in the pre-season and can be an option even if you’re aiming for the Stubai mojo.

img-20161111-wa0016(click by Brian Fernandes)

Best advice? Leave your riding destination open and make you base in Innsbruck. From there you’ll have plenty to choose from and you’ll get to experience the vibe of a beautiful city that is home of a large community of snow lovers.

img-20161113-wa0006img-20161110-wa000920160129_133332(clicks by André Pisco, Brian Fernandes and João Saraiva)

What are you waiting for?

 

 

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Winter is coming, or so they say

Although we’re coming into October, there’s no sign of winter here in the South of Portugal. Not only have we been having temperatures around the 30º C, waves have been pumping in the south coast – best summer ever for surfing, I dare say. Look at this photo from yesterday:

 

Not only there are surf vibes everywhere, the  warm weather forecast will keep pushing us to the beach for the next weeks. No wonder it’s hard to change into the Winter gear. Not even the world premiere of Travis Rice’s “The Fourth Phase” on October 2 is really appealing the snowboard mode.

Nonetheless, we’re making plans to hit the mountain roads. We’re aiming high – 3200 m high, to be exact. Stubai Gletscher, here we come.